Nick's recommendations for visiting Athens
An attempt to actually be able to answer the question “any recs for Athens?”
Every time a friend asks me for recommendations on where to go or what to do in Athens, I keep giving out random bits I can recall in the moment. I’ll try and keep this living note vaguely up to date (though at the same time, I haven’t been a permanent resident of Athens since mid-2012…) with suggestions of what to do, eat, and drink if you’re going on holiday there :) (also, yay, great choice! Athens and Greece more generally is amazing for hols)
How long to stay for
Usually I recommend 2-3 days, which gives you enough time to do a mix of the following:
- Eat great food
- Go up to the Acropolis, Archaeological Museum, and potentially other museums/relic sites (I like the Athens War Museum)
- Walk around the city centre - it’s gorgeous and charming (even the parts that aren’t exactly “pretty”)
If you’re planning to be in Greece for longer, you’re probably get more value out of your time and money by going to an island afterwards (or the countryside/mountains if that’s your thing / if it’s not quite beach season)
Where to go (places to eat and drink)
As a rule of thumb, food is pretty good in Athens. That said, there’s lots of tourist traps downtown. The food will probably still be good (but maybe not as good as elsewhere), and will cost more.
Generally cheaper and less formal than a restaurant, the taverna is a hallmark of Greek eating culture. The one downtown that was my go-to choice (more out of habit than careful research) sadly closed this year, but here’s a few others in the city centre you can try:
- For a (somewhat) modern twist on Greek dishes, Athinaikon is really good (and good value for money). I usually get the “drunken fried chicken”
There’s loads around Athens, and you get amazing views of the city and the Acropolis. Three that are all a couple minutes away from Monastiraki square:
- 360 (4.4 stars, 7.4k reviews)
- A for Athens (4.4 stars, 4.8k reviews)
- Couleur Locale (4.5 stars on Google Maps, 7.5k reviews)
Try loukoumades (λουκουμάδες), a fluffy deep-fried doughnut doused in honey. A good downtown choice is LUKUMAΔΕΣ, which is by Monastiraki (same as the 3 rooftop bars)
Daytime / coffee
- six d.o.g.s. is a combination of cafe, garden, and art exhibition centre. Great when it’s warm outside and you want to enjoy the cool shade of nature in a city centre with very few parks
What to eat (Dishes you should try)
- Gyros: The ultimate Greek fast food. You can find it everywhere, and really cheap. Comes in chicken, pork, and (more recently/not in every souvlaki store) fake meat varieties. You can have it in a wrap or a plate. For the wrap, you can choose what else to put inside (e.g. onions, tomato, tzatziki, fries). My go-to is chicken gyros with fries, onion, and yoghurt sauce.
- Soutzoukakia: Meatballs in a slightly spicy (Greece doesn’t really do spicy) tomato sauce. Have the ‘giaourtlou’ (with yoghurt) option.
- Kebap giaourtlou: Similar to soutzoukakia, except there’s no tomato sauce (and made with fewer spices).
- Saganaki (σαγανάκι) - fried cheese. Do I need to elaborate?
- Tyropita: Cheese pastry. There’s lots of different kinds (different patry/filo types, different cheese fillings). Honestly, just go into any bakery and try different stuff. My favourite tyropita is kaseropita (filled with kaseri, a Greek cheese). You can also get pastries with cheese+spinach (spanakopita), cheese+ham, mincemeat, chicken, etc. Don’t think “ah, sounds like Greggs” - it’s way better, plus cheaper and with greater variety.
- Bougatsa: Custard pie with filo pastry. A specialty of Thessaloniki, but the ones you can get in Athenian bakeries are pretty great too.
- Vegan gyros - see earlier description of the meat version. Not every souvlaki place will offer it, but Athens is getting better and better at being veggie and vegan-friendly :)
- Kolokithokeftedes (zucchini fritters): If you wanted to make a meatball, but wanted to use zucchini/courgette as your base, this is it. So good.
- Kolokithakia (crispy fried zucchini): Deep fried battered zucchini. Absolutely delicious.
- Gemista (veggies stuffed with rice): Personally not a huge fan, but it’s a very traditional and loved dish. It can also come in a non-vegan variety (mincemeat in the rice), but usually is vegan.
- Fasolada (bean soup): Hearty meal consisting of a few different types of beans, carrots, tomatoes, onion, celery
- Briam: Oven-baked vegetables (courgettes, potatoes, and aubergines) mixed with tomato sauce. Pairs great with lots of feta cheese (but then it’s not vegan, sorry)
- Gigantes (giant beans): Another bean dish made with tomato sauce and herbs. Also pairs great with feta cheese.
- Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves): Like with gemista, it also comes in a non-veggie variety.
- As mentioned at the top, I haven’t actually lived in Athens for a long time - at this point I’m more of a tourist myself when I go back 1-2 times a year, except I also don’t usually do as much exploration as I would elsewhere, because we just go to usual places
- At the time this bullet point was written, this was the first-pass attempt to recall the various places and foods I’d recommend - so I’ll try and add to this over time
- All pictures were taken by me (hence the lack of pictures for a lot of dishes)
- I hope that having this public note will serve as motivation for me to be a bit less complacent next time I’m in Athens, and actually discover more new places to visit & recommend!